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Ice cold cash

Representatives from Fargo youth hockey groups have formed an organization to raise $15 million for a new four-rink facility that would feature a full-service restaurant, pro shop and 32 locker rooms.

Opening ceremonies

Representatives from Fargo youth hockey groups have formed an organization to raise $15 million for a new four-rink facility that would feature a full-service restaurant, pro shop and 32 locker rooms.

The group - unofficially named the Fargo Youth Icemakers - plans to set aside $3 million of the $15 million for a new south Fargo practice facility or for renovations to north Fargo arenas, depending on where the four-rink facility is built, said Mike Hartel, treasurer of the Fargo Youth Hockey Association.

"We don't care where it goes. We honestly think someone is going to partner with us," Hartel said. "We're completely flexible on location, it depends on who helps sponsor it. We recognize that if this facility goes on the south side of town, it leaves the north side of town with some older rinks."

Plans for the facility include hosting 32-team tournaments - as many as 20 per year - that could generate $500,000 to $600,000 in revenue to help offset youth hockey costs and spur player participation, Hartel said.

Two of the rinks - described as high school game venues - would seat 2,000 to 3,000 spectators, Hartel said. The other two would seat 600 to 1,000.


Five of the six ice arenas in Fargo seat 500 people or less. The 37-year-old John E. Carlson Coliseum in north Fargo seats about 3,200 , but its undersized ice sheet rules out hosting state or Eastern Dakota Conference tournaments.

"The goal would be to have four high school games going on at one time," although staggered slightly, Hartel said. "Instead of 500 people, we feel we could have 5,000 people per hockey night. There's no reason we can't increase our attendance of our high school sports."

While Hartel said some could say a four-sheet facility isn't needed, he estimates tournament visitors would rent 25,000 hotel rooms per year.

He said there are only two places in the region - Fargo and the Twin Cities area - that could host 32-team tournaments, he said. "This would be unique for Fargo."

The organization, which plans to file paperwork to become a nonprofit in a few weeks, consists of two representatives from four youth hockey groups: the Fargo Flyers, Fargo Raiders, Fargo Angels and Fargo All City.

It was created for the sole purpose of raising money for the new facility, Hartel said. Just how it plans to raise$15 million remains a mystery.

Al Hintz, who was named president of the organization Thursday afternoon, declined to comment on whether the organization has received major contributions yet.

"We have some great paths and ideas for fundraising, we've given that considerable thought," Hintz said. "The first thing we did was figure out what is our method and how are we are going to get this money."


The organization has presented a preliminary proposal to the Park District, School Board and high school coaches. A meeting with Fargo city officials is scheduled in the next two weeks, Hartel said.

Designating $3 million to north or south Fargo was a recommendation from coaches, Hartel said.

"What makes this greater than anything that has come before is the idea that it would generate revenue," said Dave Bjugson, Fargo North/West Fargo girls hockey coach. "And that revenue would come right back into youth hockey."

Hartel said the cost of running a Fargo Flyer program is about $1,200 per player. Proceeds from the organization's annual squirt international tournament cuts that figure in half, with families absorbing about $350 in registration fees. Additional fees include a well-attended - yet optional - $150 training camp and a buyout option on a $200 calendar raffle fundraiser.

"Our goal would be to get (registration fees) much lower so all players in town can participate," Hartel said.

Clay Whittlesey, director of recreation for the Fargo Park District, said three or four members of the organization presented a preliminary proposal a few weeks ago that included preliminary sketches of the facility.

And while the Park District already put $4.7 million into the Southwest Youth Ice Arena in 2003 and has said it has little to no money for another arena, Whittlesey said project priorities advance when money is brought to the table.

"They made an informal presentation to us to let us know what they were working on," said Whittlesey, once a coach in the Fargo Flyers program and a retired referee of 18 years. "We wish them luck."


Although many youth hockey officials and supporters have long said Fargo needs additional ice, proposals for youth hockey arenas haven't always been embraced by the community.

In April 2000, voters rejected a proposal to extend the Fargodome's sales tax to build a $42 million hockey arena attached to the dome. Last May, the city's voters turned down a proposal for a $40 million downtown hockey arena and events center.

The Fargo Park District originally wanted a four-rink facility at the Southwest Youth Ice Arena, a two-rink arena that opened in October 2003, but didn't have the funding. The Fargo School District did not support the four-rink proposal.

Dan Huffman, Fargo School District assistant superintendent of business services, said the district's real need will come when it opens a third public high school in 2011.

"When the third high school opens, we'll need an adequate gaming facility with seating for at least 3,000 people plus a practice sheet for three boys programs and three girls programs," Huffman said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Joe Whetham at (701) 241-5557

Current Fargo ice arenas

-John E. Carlson Coliseum: Operated by Fargo Park District and seats about 3,200


-Southwest Youth Ice Arena: Operated by Park District and has two rinks that seat 500 each

-Southside Arena: Operated by Park District and seats 400 but is used mostly for practices

-Teamsters Arena: Privately operated and seats less than 400

-Sunmart Centennial Arena: Privately operated and seats about 50

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